As I write this, I am walking the pilgrimage of Santiago, an arduous, 800-km trek over the Pyrenees and through Spain.
As with so many things, strong comparisons can be drawn between the journey I am taking and the writing journey. So many comments, judgements and questions asked of a writer are also asked of the pilgrim. Perhaps some of these will resonate with you, the writing pilgrim.
How can one walk 800 km? The same way you write a book, a novella, a short story or even your bio. It is achieved one step at a time. From experience, I can tell you that no one walks the same path. The goal is achieved with a little planning, a lot of planning, or even no planning. It is achieved quickly, or on a timeframe, or it is organic.
We all walk the journey by ourselves, but we are never alone. Gifts of inspiration and support come in the interactions with others, the snippets of conversations and brief connections you make. Writers and pilgrims may dwell for hours in their own worlds, but glimpses of enlightenment and clarity are only seen through the interactions had with others. The folk wisdom that a journey can only be achieved by starting is true with both writing and the pilgrimage.
“I could never do that, I have a family, young children, commitments (etc)”
If your passion is writing, then write; if for no one else but yourself. There is the question of what a ‘real’ writer is, just as what a ‘real’ pilgrim is. By whose rules do you set your writing life up? Whose judgement says what a pilgrim looks like or acts like, or for what purpose they walk their journey? If you write three sentences a day; you are a writer. If you walk three kilometres, you are a pilgrim. It will take you longer than others, but if you have no timeline, then does it matter?
The majority of writers have other commitments–family and paying jobs. Don’t let others fears stop you from following your dreams. Most pilgrims come alone or with friends; it’s rare to see children along the track. I am walking 800 km with a nine and eleven year old; who until last year, lived a comfortable, sedentary inner city life. By no stretch are we fit or sporty. We carry all our belongings on our backs and take life one step at the time. Our little threesome have gained minor notoriety already as we reach the 170-km mark. I am called brave, inspirational and amazing; and yet I feel I am none of these. My kids are awesome, but we all get tired, we all hate getting up early to strap on our walking boots.
It is the same with writing. We must push through the uncomfortable sentences, power over paragraphs and be prepared to weather the attacks of the editors’ red pen. Strap on your walking/writing boots and just… Walk… Write..
The miles spill out before me as my mind empties of the business which normally occupies it; just as the words will spill out under your fingertips as you continue to write.